Why is he so fast?

Usain Bolt explains why he is so fast. Listen to what he has to say.

Bolt of Jamaica starts in the men's 200 metres quarter-final heats during the world athletics championships at the Olympic stadium in Berlin
Quick Reaction.
Drive.
Driving.
Driving.
Keep Driving.
Knees up.
Shoulders Down.
Dorsiflex.
Toes up.
Plant & Drive.
Focus.
Stay Focused.

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John

John Welbourn is the creator/operator of CrossFit Football and Power Athlete. He is a 10 year NFL veteran. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft. He went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John also is owner of CrossFit Balboa, an S&C gym in Orange County, CA. CrossFit Balboa is one of a handful of Westside Barbell certified gyms in the world. In addition to training MLB, NFL and other professional and Olympic athletes, John travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie.

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Posted in Mental, Power Athlete, Talk to Me Johnnie | Tagged , , , , , , | 42 Comments

42 Responses to Why is he so fast?

  1. Danger Town

    Shocking! Where have I heard that before…

  2. Chris S

    It’s kinda funny because when you actually analyze his running videos, he doesn’t do any of this.

  3. Really? What is he doing? Do you think he is confused? Why would be giving the wrong information?

  4. Kate

    Hey Chris S, when you analyzed his running videos, what did you see him do differently that contradicts what he’s saying in this recent interview? Analyze this slow motion capture video (not still frames) and let us know what you see:
    http://youtu.be/vf12x5WSLN8

  5. steve

    I thought he was the POSE poster child. I would expect “fall”, “pull”, etc to appear. ??

  6. Danger Town

    Dear Chris, you are wrong.

  7. I am in no way an expert in Pose Running, but after having Romanov here last weekend and hearing him analyzing this video at least 10 times he is not doing what he is saying. At no point other than maybe a little in the start he is not driving and definitely not planting and driving during the run. If he was “driving” that back leg would be extending full and at no point is he doing that. So I would agree with Chris. Also to John, as a disclaimer you are waaaayy smarter than me in probably everything to do with life, but I would contest just because someone is the best at what they do they might not know what it is they are doing or especially how to teach what they are doing. It might just be that they are a freak of nature regurgitating information they heard from a coach.

  8. Raphael

    Chad, really? Why do POSE advocates claim that you have to have a fully extended knee and hip for it to be “driving”? Can you not “drive” out of the bottom of a sqt (in full hip flexion)? Has anyone else ever witnessed a heavy clean w/o full extension (315 w/a mule kick)? i have and it’d be safe to say that that person was “Driving” the freak out of his spine/hips/knees/ankles AND w/o ever reaching full extension. if there are any “biomechanist” out there, correct me if i’m wrong, but i believe that extension is just movement in the opposite direction of flexion regardless of the degree of angle. i imagine a SHORT, straight cross from Mike Tyson w/o reaching full extension is still going to “drive” his fist through the back of your head. Coming out of the blocks i imagine is a lot like jumping which i think is kind of like olympic lifting!?! Physics is physics, no matter what infomercial we’re watching. Have we ever witnessed really fast, inflexible sprinters? YES, its called the NFL! Some guys never reach terminal extension but does that mean that they’re not pushing and driving? and if you can’t admit that he’s aggressively pushing “maybe a little” at the start, then there isn’t enough substance to have a conversation. he’s pushing out over top for 30M (a full 1/3 of the race)! A) “Driving arms” you guys didn’t see that? B) “Knees Up” that one must’ve slipped you folks? C) “Toes Up” was that one missed as well?

  9. Raphael

    Also, find out for yourself. take in information, but then get a 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th opinion. i’m not against POSE. but i am 100% against trying to shove that running technique down the throats of people who are “contextually gullible”. Why would POSE coaches be even considered qualified, credible resources for successful sprinting. Go to the people responsible for OLYMPIC medal winners. Tom Tellez, Clyde Hart, Dan Pfaff, Vince Anderson, Pat Henry, Glen Mills, Charlie Francis to name a few Tier 1 coaches. Tom Tellez (Carl Lewis), Clyde Hart (Michael Johnson, Jeremy Wariner, Darold Williamson) and Glen Mills (Usain Bolt) all adamantly dismiss all biomechanical claims of the POSE concepts in running anything under an elite 800M. they 1st found it comical, but just like me now look at it as irresponsible. New elongated force plates have measured over 1000lbs of pressure under foot of elite sprinters. can you honestly swallow a pill that says that is due to “falling forwards and picking your feet up”? Another new study proved that the majority of people all sprint w/ the same cadence. the distinguishing factors are 1) amount of force reacted off of the ground and B) the amount of time that force is applied. in Beijing 2nd-8th place covered 100M in 44 steps, Usain in 41. if POSE running makes you smile, then bounce all day long. But teach a young , impressionable athlete that POSE is the best technique to accelerate over 1, 5, 10, 20, 40, 60 on on up through 1600M run is borderline criminal. Can you POSE and “push start” an Olympic Bobsled? they happen to posses the world’s fastest 30M sprints on record (Hershall Walker, Willie Gault, Edwin Moses). Can a champion hurdler just passively rely on gravity to generate enough velocity to attack the 1st hurdle and have enough to carry through the next 100M and 9 hurdles? as soon as a POSE coach and the athlete(s) that they directly work w/ wins something while POSE running, conversations such as these are null & void because 1/2 of the argument is w/o merit. POSE brags about Usain because of some skewed twisting of pictures and vids. But when Usain personally comes out and describes in detail his mechanics and his mental approach to sprinting fast, POSE chalks it up to “a gifted athlete can’t comprehend what he or she is doing”!?! EVERY elite sprinter knows exactly what they are doing in the infinite detail. Olympic sprinters are some of the most arrogant, cocky but intelligent athletes in the world. Glen Mills and Usain video and analyze each and every training session and race w/ a fine tooth comb. don’t let his persona fool you, Usain is a very intelligent man when it comes to anatomy and the biomechanics of being fast. and please don’t just take my words, don’t take POSE coaches’ words, but go out and find the truth for yourself. There’s a huge world of sports performance that exists outside of the crossfit community. we’ve been doing this at a significantly higher level for a lot longer than new fitness-fads have been around. Drink the Kool-Aid if you like the flavor, but don’t be so gullible in thinking that its the best beverage around.

  10. Chad

    Raph,

    I am in no way a match for your knowledge at all. And am strictly going off what I observed and made pretty good sense to me while listening to Romanov analyze the tape. I’ll also admit that not enough sunk in to have a valid debate for me to actually explain it. I have been to yours (I am assuming you are Ruiz) and John’s CFFB cert as well and what you guys said made sense too, as did what Romanov said. I should probably not speak with as much conviction unless I fully understand fully what I am talking about. After a weekend I am in no way an expert on POSE technique. I would love to see a conversation between you guys and Romanov just to listen and learn from both sides, that is if you guys havn’t had one already. P.S. I will take your word on the Tyson experiment and rather not see that for myself.

    Much Respect.

  11. Raphael

    Chad,

    No worries. We as sprint coaches are more than open-minded towards innovative ways to get our athletes to SPRINT faster. but we all can’t ignore, nor tolerate the irresponsible actions of a few. my soap box was directed to them, through you. My best to you!

  12. Chad

    Here is an article Dr. Romanov wrote on that performance.

    http://www.posetech.com/training/archives/000791.html

    I 100% agree that one needs to find many opinions and ultimately decide for themselves what they think is “right”. And I am in no way only loyal to CrossFit methodology or ways of thinking, to put it another way I would enjoy many different flavors of Kool-aid if it were only “Paleo”. (That’s my poor attempt at a joke to make light of this situation) As I said I am very wet behing the ears with Pose technique, If you read that article can you please post a rebuttal or analysis of it for me. I say this not to be a dick but to honestly learn from it and help me decide what is really going on with this performance. Also, I’m sure Bolt is very well schooled in his craft I was just stating there is a possibility that just because someone is elite in something does not make them automatically an authority figure in teaching what they do. This hopefully we can agree on.

  13. Raphael

    i do agree on that. its what we like to term as the “Curse of the Gifted”. To clarify, my statement is a “matter-of-fact” that i have been impressed w/ Glen Mill’s and more importantly w/ Usain’s personal understanding of the human machine and what it takes to be fast. multiple conversations w/ them have never left me w/o complete confidence that they were both well beyond common grasp of physics, biomechanics, anatomy and psychomotor functioning. There is always a possibility that tier 1 athletes can’t explain how they do things. but this is definitely not the case w/ Bolt.

  14. Chad

    Thanks for the insight Raph! Would still love to hear a convo between you and Dr. Romanov, that would be some interesting stuff.

  15. Raphael

    Not until POSE coaches take their “theories” and practically apply their concepts, change the mechanics of an ELITE sprinter/runner and show improvements in the times. i’m tired of listening to all of them showing clips and vids of “other” elite sprinters and claiming them as POSE. Why don’t they have any in their very own stable? and why hasn’t any POSE coach been able to explain why POSE running disregards Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion. So until Dr. Romanov, Brian McKenzie and Co. do those things, then it’d be a waste of time and there’s no conversation to be had. Training methodologies, systems, concepts, etc. etc. are proven effective when you show improvements in the time that it takes athletes to cross the finish line, down range, down the field, from point A-to-B. Proclaim you greatness to the Sprint Coaches’ community by the results of YOUR own runners. Proof is in the pudding my friend!

  16. JJ

    A POSE coach might say that the 3rd law comes into play with the soft tissues elastic response to bodyweight when the athlete resumes support before pulling and falling into the next support. I am no POSE coach, just the devil’s advocate.

  17. Raphael

    1) body in motion will stay in motion until acted upon by an external force (gravity). Gravity is a constant pull straight down. just like a bullet shot out of a gun, it will eventually fall to the earth because of the constant pull of gravity DOWN. Also like a bullet, when an elite sprinter jumps out of the blocks, gravity will eventually pull him/her down until they resist the fall of gravity and apply force against it. you must resist gravity to travel in any direction off of a 0 degree vertically displaced center mass. a better understanding by POSE coaches of the difference between potential and kinetic energy, and the restraints that come w/ each of them should be applicable to a discussion on speed development. 2) Force = Mass x Acceleration (F=M x A). so thus Acceleration = Force / Mass [Thrust-to-Weight ration]. 3) For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    1st) clarification needs to be established between accelerating out of the blocks, out of a 3-pt stance, out of a secondary lead, from cover, etc., etc., etc. and top-end speed. there is a distinct difference between the mechanics of the two. Equal power w/ diminishing thrust or equal thrust w/ diminishing power. 2nd) in reference to top-end speed, a misrepresentation of body lean exists in the POSE community. a vertically aligned spinal column w/ limited vertical displacement of their center mass is not “a forward leaning body”. whether you are pushing to accelerate or pulling at a top-end speed, sprinting has always been about horizontally displacing your center mass against the absolute pull of gravity.

    JJ,

    whether it be your Serial Elastic Component or Parallel Elastic Components, neither are force producers, but in fact “dampening agents” (as it is often confused because a high amount of torque at the affective joint exists). their purpose is to 1) reduce the amount of force that is being placed upon the body 2) prepare the body to realign any alterations to its default motor patterning 3) store elastic energy and 4) then and only then does a contraction occur, thus producing force. but that force is still opposite of the force being acted upon the musculotendinous unit(s). if there is an inadequate amount of force (step/fall) must occur. Newton’s 3rd Law.

  18. Raphael

    Watch this video of the Beijing Olympics, gold medal 10,oooM Run. Analyze their running mechanics. Vertical Spine? Any body lean? High knees? Toes up? Aggressive arm action?

  19. I so appreciate this post (this blog) – I’d been trying POSE running, mainly because I am slow and terrible at running and it just feels slow. Sure for long runs, which I don’t do a lot of it’s OK, but for short sprints it feels very slow and ineffective. Thanks for this. The more I read this blog the more I think it might behoove me to attend a CFFB seminar/cert… Any chance y’all will be in Georgia anytime soon?

  20. @Steven
    Yeah we’ll be there soon… like January 2012 soon. Keep you’re eyes peeled.

  21. Brian

    He still wins…. and is faster than everyone here so… he’s right. No sense in telling us his ‘secrets’ – he wants to be the best. Good try.

  22. Ron

    Chad….I could not agree with you more. Bolt is a physical specimen and a phenom. Just because he is the fastest man in the world does not mean he can teach you anything about becoming faster. What works for his “freak-like” body, may not and most likely will not work for the average joe. Perfect example of this was Ted Williams. Possibly the greatest hitter in MLB history and was one of the worst batting coaches to ever grace the game.

  23. Raphael

    Ron…1) he is not trying to tell US how to run fast! the interview is about what is going on in HIS mind while HE is running fast. i’ve had a conversation or two w/ Usain and if i were a betting man i’d go out on a limb and say that he could care less about how WE all run. Again, the interviewer was asking him about “what’s going on in your head while you’re running?” 2) to everyone who doesn’t have a lot of experience w/ “technique running” of elite sprinters A) they are the most “over-coached” athlete on the planet. Each and every step is nit-picked, evaluated, re-evaluated, analyzed, over-analyzed, forwards and backwards more times than you could ever imagine. Olympic caliber athletes have more resources available to them than you can imagine. they can tell you exactly what foot is hitting the 42nd meter of a 60M race and to what degree their back elbow must be at to increase their stride length 1/2 through a wide, unbanked curve; B) people aren’t recognizing that this is also his “psychological and emotional” approach to running fast. Words like QUICK, EXPLODE, DRIVE, DRIVING, FORCE, AGGRESSIVE, JUMP, PUNCH, HAMMER are all coaching cues that are utilized to illicit an emotional response that are proven to aid in the succes of the sprinter. Running fast is about controlled AGGRESSION. listen to his approach and what he thinks of and we get a chance to dive into the mind of the fastest man in the world. 3) Everything that he is describing and everything that he’s focused in on (from his own description/self-coaching cues) is exactly what he is doing. 4) learn what the best are doing and figure out what, if any, will work for you and your athletes. Granted the elite and Tier 1 athletes are born to be great. but in this world, you don’t become the best by accident. he’s doing at least one thing right and it would suit you best if you are responsible for making athletes faster, to learn EXACTLY what that is.

  24. Hope this one was not already mentioned in one of the comments, but for all interested in the “anatomy of the ideal sprinter”, here is a pretty recent paper

    “J Sports Sci. 2011 Sep 14. [Epub ahead of print]
    The changing shape characteristics associated with success in world-class sprinters.
    Watts AS, Coleman I, Nevill A.
    Source

    a School of Applied Sciences, University of Wolverhampton , Wolverhampton , UK.
    Abstract

    Abstract The aims of this study were to identify whether relative shape and size characteristics of world-class sprinters have changed over time, and whether any anthropometric parameters characterize the most successful world-class sprinters. The results suggest that body mass index, reflecting greater muscle mass rather than greater adiposity, is an important factor associated with success in both male and female world-class sprinters over time. However, in female athletes the reciprocal ponderal index (RPI) has emerged as a more important indicator of success over several decades, with taller, more linear sprinters achieving greater success, as measured by sprint speed. In male sprinters it is only in the most recent decade that RPI has emerged as an important predictor of success. We speculate that the prominence of the RPI and an ectomophic somatotype being typical of the most successful world-class sprinters might be explained, in part, by the influence of stride length on sprint speed. In conclusion, these results suggest that coaches, selectors, and sports scientists should consider body shape when selecting potential athletes for sprint events, encouraging more linear athletes with a high RPI.

    PMID:
    21916672
    [PubMed – as supplied by publisher] ”

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21916672

  25. Pingback: Tuesday November 1st, 2011 | Core CrossFit Downtown Phoenix Arizona

  26. i agree w/ the premise of the research article above, but not w/ the speculations. Again, speed has proven to be a direct result of 1) the summation of Ground Reaction Force(s) and 2) the duration of the application of the GRF. a longer acceleration “Push” application or a longer top-end speed “Pull” application will most likely lead to a faster run as long as the force vectors are aligned properly.

    The part that i disagree w/ is in the common misnomer that all tall athletes are an ectomorphic somatotype. Usain Bolt is tall for an average sprinter, but he is far from an ectomorph. They are characterized by long and lean frames, but that is normally accompanied w/ a “lack of substantial muscular development”. A mesomorphic somatotype is the “classically well-muscular, athletic frame” as the endomorphic somatotype is the “large-boned” frame. But we have to remember, that is an individual reference and not a reference to comparative values. Usain Bolt (6’5″ @207lbs), Detroit Lion’s WR Calvin Johnson (6’5″ @240lbs), Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard (6’11” @265) are all tall athletes compared to the normal American average of 5’8″, but far from ectomorphic somatotyped. They are just scientifically referred to as tall mesomorphs. Like-wise, Allyson Felix (5’6″ @125) isn’t considered tall in height, but is described as an athlete who “runs tall”. this means she she utilizes every fraction of an inch of her force production through great mechanics and great mobility, producing a very long, powerful and fluid stride. Allyson Felix, Ethiopian Distance Runner & World Record Holder Haile Gebrselassie (5’5 @123lbs) and NFL Hall of Fame Running Back Barry Sanders (5’8″ @203) all were “not-as-tall” athletes but possessed optimized stride lengths that even the tallest of runners envied.

    Although recently published and well written, these results are neither new nor shocking. Someone of Usain’s talents on the track would’ve gone long forgotten if he were born and raised in the USA. Football and baseball coaches would’ve recognized his pension for quickness early and would’ve swept him off of the track by HS but no later than college. Think of the speed burners that have graced the fields throughout the ages. Now imagine if there was comparable revenue to be made, allowing them to concentrate and focus their performance envelopes on the track. A few Tier 1 names come to mind immediately w/ the likes of Darrell Greene (5’9″ @184lbs), Deion Sanders (6’1″ @200lbs), Bo Jackson (6’1″ @220lbs), Randy Moss (6’4″ @210lbs), baseball’s Ricky Henderson (6’0″ @180lbs), NBA’s Allen Iverson (6’0″ @165lbs) & Wilt Chamberlain (7’1″ @275lbs, was a reported sub 10:sec 100M & sub 49:sec quarter miler). So, the study does support the notion that “longer force production” is a key factor in running fast, there is an incorrect reference to the various types of somatotyping. A common field rule of standards (as a bell-shaped curve of reference) is to grab you wrist w/ your thumb and middle finger. A) the more that they over-lap: higher percentage of Ectomorphic Somatotype, B) If they barely touch: Mesomorphic Somatotype and C) the less that they do not touch: Endomorphic Somatotype.

  27. Blocker

    Master Raph, great work. It’s very hard to explain to a fitness professional that real maths is much different than their understanding. If you messure 1000lbs of force im pretty sure thats a little larger than a gravitational reaction force? Being a dynamic system you would need to model a 100m sprint with relation to momentum and horizontal displacement with a non linear harmonic input to replicate the “chaotic” initial conditions of the raising of the torso over the acceleration period during which the instant centre of mass is changing with time. This period would be known as the transient of the response until top speed is reached when the system becomes a steady state. In conclusion, way too hard without a large computer.

  28. Chris S

    Here is the explination I received regarding the force plate thing:

    After you come up in the blocks (from the kneeling position), your bodyweight is supported and distributed by four points: your right hand, your left hand, your right foot, and your left foot. Once the gun goes off, the sprinter immediately lifts his hands. Now the bodyweight his feet must support has just increased (roughly 50/50). Then, once the back foot comes up, all of the bodyweight is now being supported by the up foot.

    So the force plates were correct. But the results were misinterpreted.

  29. Understanding the dynamic nature of sprinting has its foundation firmly embedded in horizontally displacing the center of mass . If someone has a grasp of the main reason why high jumpers in the late 60s went from the roll-scissor-straddle type jump to the now standard Fosbury Flop, then they will easily comprehend the rocket-type starts from the blocks that elite sprinters utilize. Most high level sprinter utilize a quasi-foot drag out of the blocks. Often seen in slow motion is the athletes 2-3 foot of forward travel while in flight phase (and YES, there is a flight phase in acceleration). So, because of the HORIZONTALLY DISPLACED center mass, the force producing feet are never bearing 100% of the athletes body weight. For example, at 170lbs, when i do a push-up to clap, are my feet bearing all 170lbs of my bodyweight evenly distributed between right and left halves? Couple that with the fact that they are aggressively “jumping” out of the blocks. This has the effect of launching their center mass down the track as they aggressively push their spine to catch up to it. The propulsive forces vs static bodyweight that are seen in these instances is what escapes most. In the oft times forgotten words of Tom Tellez, “…in the end being fast is about covering ground!”

  30. YourAllSad

    He more than likely doesn’t think of ANY of this while he’s running. There are so many people with talent who don’t know what their doing but can do it wll. They just mimick people and know that if they do this much then things will turn out good for them. So, to everybody criticising people who say he doesn’t do any of this he probably doesn’t. I play sports and unlike you all I know what I’m talking about. You could follow these techniques all you want but it will only get you so far. Speed is determined by the number of fast twitch fibers you have in your muscle. Not by following some silly technique. It also helps that he has amazing genes and is in fantastic shape. I am 100% sure he doesn’t think of any of this and it just might be that he naturally does this. So please do not be an asshole to others just because you think you know what your talking about when you don’t. Ask ANYONE who is good at a sport around you if they know what their doing. I GUARENTEE you that they won’t know the basics of some parts of their sports.

  31. YourAllSad

    Raphael dude… you said sprinters are the most over coached athletes on the planet. You are 100% false. 1. Sprinters don’t make crap for money. 2. A basketball or football player practices 8-10 hours a day. 3. I can’t believe you said that… 4. There’s not much to teach about running lol… You can try and.respond back and defend yourself to protect your internet ego but I’m 100% right. Running doesn’t take jack to do. Please stop trying to act like you know.what your talking about because you have no clue.

  32. Your All Sad? Really? Have some fucking balls and post your name, email and quit hiding behind the veil of the internet.

    And you should do some checking on Raphael Ruiz before you make dip shit comments. Obviously, you have little knowledge on mos topics discussed here.

  33. Your All Sad – Are you serious, or are you intentionally trying to be lame? Regardless of what you believe about POSE, Raphael is 100% on the money with respect to the amount of coaching track athletes receive. To make a statement suggesting that “there’s not much to teach about running” negates anything else you might have to say.

    John and also Raphael, Thanks for this post as well as the comments. It motivated me to get in contact with Dr. Romanov and Brian Mac to try and better understand what they were suggesting with respect to POSE and elite sprinters – You can see their thoughts (as well as quotes from a few T&F coaches) at http://myathleticlife.com/2012/02/pose-running-sprinting/

    Tim Huntley

  34. Kevin

    lol at some internet troll telling Raphael Ruiz that he has no clue what he’s talking about.

    I enjoyed that.

    Also, not to be that guy, but shouldn’t it be “You’re All Sad”?

  35. Hey “YourAllSad”! i hope & pray that all is well w/ u & yours! i really appreciate your comments and welcome an intelligent email conversation between you & i. i’d love to hear your educated, coaching techniques for what you’ve found to improve an athlete’s ability to accelerate and to develop greater speed. Often times we feel that we work harder than we’d like to get our athletes to run their 40yd dashes in under 4.49. In addition, we always find ourselves racking our brains to get our track athletes’ 100M times under the 10.18 (A)/10.24 (B) as you’re aware of these as the US Oly Trial’s cut-offs. With all of your experiences, we’d love the opportunity to learn from what has helped you in the past to get you and your athletes through the barriers that we’re faced w/. i’ve found that its always beneficial for experienced and successful coaches/athletes to engage in effective dialogue, like you and I! Please feel free to email at: raph@1441.us. Respectfully yours, raphael

  36. For the record: Jocelyn Forest Haynes is my Hero!

  37. adam

    anyone know where to find this video now? it was removed.

  38. Seems more like a physics discussion than a runners discussion haha.

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